Monday

17th Jan 2022

Turkey votes again, as EU seeks help on refugees

Turkish voters will head to the polls, again, on Sunday (1 November), as Europe seeks help from Ankara on stemming the flow of refugees.

The snap election was called just five months after the last one failed to produce an absolute majority for president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Recent polls indicate the 57 million voters haven’t changed their mind significantly since the last time around, on 7 June.

They also indicate the escalation of violence with the Kurds has not turned voters away from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which passed the 10 percent threshold in the summer to enter parliament.

In one survey, by MetroPoll, released on Thursday, the AKP is to get 43.3 percent of the vote, compared with the 40.8 percent it took in the June election. But another forecast, by Gur's A&G Research, puts the AKP on 47.2 percent, securing the absolute majority, Reuters reports.

Change?

Whether a coalition emerges from the vote or whether an AKP-only government will serve its fourth term, it might do little to change Ankara’s handling of the refugee crisis.

“Even if the opposition wins, which is not likely, the request from Turkey wouldn’t be different - financial help to deal with it, take over part of the burden, help solving the Syria crisis,” Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, told EUobserver.

She added that Europe needs to consider Turkey’s broader problems when trying to negotiate for a refugee deal.

“Right now the biggest issue in Turkey is not refugees, it is security,” Piri said, noting that the country is at a dangerous crossroads.

Since the June elections, violent conflict spread throughout the country between government forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Suicide bombers targeted a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara earlier this month in Turkey’s deadliest-ever terrorist attack.

Some of Kurdish towns are under curfew, making voting difficult, and in some areas HDP could not campaign out of security fears.

Europe woos Erdogan

In the middle of the election campaign, EU leaders have been busy courting Ankara to help Europe cope with the influx of migrants from the Middle East who cross into Europe via Turkey.

So far this year, more than 500,000 people have entered via neighboring Greece, mostly on dinghies.

“He [Erdogan] was presenting himself as someone who can push Europe around on the refugee issue,” said Piri, who thinks the timing of German shancellor Angela Merkel’s recent visit, in mid-October, was bad, because Erdogan used it to bolster AKP support

The European Commission has also postponed a report assessing Turkey’s progress on EU membership, making sure there’s no EU criticism of his authoritarian style before the elections.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said recently in the European Parliament, that complaining about Turkey's human rights record does not help with negotiations on migrants.

"We can say that EU and the European institutions have outstanding issues with Turkey on human rights, press freedoms and so on. We can harp on about that, but where is that going to take us in our discussions with Turkey?" he said.

Piri, who has sent a letter to the EU executive aksing it explain the delay, and who so far has gotten no reply, said it is worrying that migration talks are being mixed up with the accession process.

She said this “gives the impression that you are easing up accession conditions in order to find on agreement with Turkey on refugees, and that is a bad thing.”

Europe should instead focus on what Turkey wants, Piri argues.

This include funding to help take care of the over 2 million refugees in Turkey, and speeding up the visa liberalisation process in return for an effective readmission agreement - whereby Ankara accepts migrants who do not qualify for international protection, and who crossed into Europe via Turkey, but are not necessarily Turkish.

Any Turkish government would want a resettlement arrangement, and, Piri argues, it is time to create legal ways for refugees to enter Europe.

“It is also in the interest of Turkey to find a good deal with Europe on how to share this burden,” the Dutch MEP said.

Turkey raises price on EU refugee deal

Turkey seeking €3 billion a year in EU aid and visa-free travel, as institutions court Ankara on refugees, including by delay of critical report, now leaked, until after elections.

Opinion

EU must press Turkey on press freedom

The migrant crisis is an opportunity for the EU and Turkey to put relations on a new footing. The EU should start by defending journalists from draconian laws.

When the EU shuts up, Erdogan moves in

Almost a week after Merkel’s visit to Istanbul, Turkish police seized one of the country's largest media groups on the eve of elections.

Erdogan party clinches majority in Turkey

Turkish president Erdogan is set to tighten his grip on power as voters in Sunday's general election gave his party a clear majoirty to rule the polarised country at the gates of Europe.

News in Brief

  1. French parliament agrees stricter vaccine-pass system
  2. US speaks to energy firms about EU gas cut-off scenario
  3. Anti-vax protests held in the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria
  4. German MEP spends €690,000 on office renovation
  5. Microsoft identified destructive malware in Ukraine agencies
  6. Danish intelligence crisis deepens
  7. Hackers expose Polish military secrets
  8. Swedish soldiers might leave Sahel due to Russian fighters

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Latest News

  1. James Kanter, Shada Islam are new editors at EUobserver
  2. The loopholes and low bar in Macron's push for a global tax
  3. No love for Russia in latest EU strategy
  4. New EU Parliament chief elected This WEEK
  5. Lead MEP now wants ETS opt-out for homes and private cars
  6. MEPs seek probe into EU commissioner over Bosnia
  7. EU's Borrell contradicts Germany on Russia gas pipeline
  8. It's time for a more geopolitical EU-Turkey cooperation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us